Grayson Wright

February 26, 2021 8:29 PM
As the wagons landed and began to unload, all but the tallest students were slightly overshadowed by an adult figure, a tall, dark-haired wizard in glasses. To most, he was a familiar figure – he had been at Sonora for longer than any student at this point. It was to those who did not know him that he repeatedly called out, however.

"Hello everyone," he said in a well-trained ‘teacher’ voice, projected just so, as students began to disembark from the wagons. "First years! First years gather here, please! Everyone leave your luggage with the wagons, thank you…."

He had mastered the trick of making himself heard over chattering crowds without damaging anyone's eardrums, but he still had, as usual, backed himself up with a large banner over the entrance to the Labyrinth Gardens: ‘Welcome to Sonora. 1st Year students here.’ The use of the numeral ‘1’ instead of the word was hopefully a clue to anyone who had difficulties reading English, and the size hopefully enough to attract the attention of even the most distractable of eleven-year-olds. He couldn’t say for sure that either made the task of gathering the first years any faster, but he was relatively sure that, at the very least, they didn’t hurt anything.

"Hello, again, everyone," he said once the majority of the student body had moved away from the wagon landing site, leaving him with the first years. "And welcome to Sonora Academy. My name is Professor Wright. I will guide you through your Orientation today. Follow me, please, thank you..."

Beneath the banner was a gap between two dense hedges, taller than any first year who didn’t happen to have a giant among their recent ancestors. A neatly gravelled path lay between them, and a short way along, it opened onto a hedge-walled courtyard, in which there was a central fountain and several stone benches which were permanent fixtures of the area and several long tables which were not. On one of these tables, there were a number of dark green folders, equal in number to the students present. On another, there was a sort of finger-and-snack-food buffet, with lightweight plates and paper napkins available so the students could gather a few refreshments in one trip if they wished. On the third, there were several large apparatuses, each topped with a clear (and unbreakable) glass bulb which showed the color of the drink within, though they were also distinguished by written labels on their sides above the spigots which, when turned, would dispense the contents into glasses: pumpkin juice, apple juice, grape juice, iced tea, and plain water. There was also a box of ice (charmed not to melt) with a scoop in it and a number of clear cups.

"Come in, everyone, and please take one folder," he instructed them. "I'm sure many of you will want some refreshments after your journey, but if you can give me your attention for a few minutes first..."

Once everyone had a folder and was more or less still and quiet, he began near-reciting the same introductory remarks he had given to each new set of first years for several years running now.

"Welcome to Sonora," he repeated. "As I said before, I am Professor Wright. I'll be one of your teachers for the next few years. Sonora is a seven-year school where you’ll be introduced to most of the major sections of magical theory and practice. Tomorrow morning, you will all start taking seven classes - Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Potions, Transfiguration, and flying lessons. I'll be your Charms teacher. You can drop flying lessons in your second year and begin taking elective classes in your third year. In your fifth year, you’ll take your first set of major exams, the Critical Assessment of Talents and Skills, or CATS, as we usually call them – at least if it’s not in a setting where we’re likely to mix them up with anyone’s pets.” He didn’t really expect even solid chuckles from the children for that one, though he thought it had been funny. “After you take your CATS, you will be allowed to drop some subjects if you want to, so you can better focus on your strengths and the requirements for careers you're interested in, though you’ll need at least two classes to graduate and three if you want to pursue your education in the magical arts further after you leave Sonora.

“We know that you all had different educations before you arrived here today,” he said, because this was true. Some might have gone to Muggle elementary schools while others might have had one tutor, a series of tutors, or been taught by a parent, while a few might have very little formal education at all. “Your professors all have office hours when we can give you extra help in our subjects if you need it, and Professor Skies, our Deputy Headmistress and your Transfiguration teacher, runs special sessions for anyone who needs help with reading and writing English, or who needs other general academic support. You can see times for those sessions in the schedules inside your green folders.

“Outside of classes, you have some choice about how you spend your time. We have several student-run clubs and a school-wide Quidditch team here, and you’ll see notices about meetings posted around the school when those groups are ready to start up for the year. Breakfast is from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m, lunch is from 11:00 to one, and supper is from five till seven, but you can find snacks and drinks in the Cascade Hall – our main dining area - between those times as well. Curfew is at ten p.m., and at that time, you’ll need to be inside your Houses – those are parts of the building where your dorms are. They're all attached to a common room you share with all the students from all seven years who were Sorted into the same group as you . Sonora has four Houses, and tonight, at the Welcoming Feast, you’ll be Sorted into one of them by dipping the blank badges you have now into a cauldron. If your badge turns blue, you’re an Aladren – the House that values learning and problem-solving.” He might have sounded a little proud there; he was a former Aladren as well as the current Head of the House. “If it turns red, you belong in Crotalus, the House for people who like to be well-prepared for everything. Yellow means you’re in Teppenpaw, the House for our diplomats. And last but not least, if your badge turns brown, that means you’re a Pecari, the House for people who always land on their feet and are always willing to take a chance. All the Houses have other traits, though, so don’t worry if you don’t think any of those things sounds exactly like you – there’s a place for everyone here at Sonora.

“Your Houses all have prefects, who are older students who can help you in many cases, and a Head of House, who is an adult and a staff member – I’m the Head of Aladren House, for instance. They’ll all look after you while you’re here – some people like to think of their Houses as an extended family. Your House can earn points based on things you do – excelling in class or in sports, or showing responsibility, or helping the school community in some way, or showing general leadership. The House with the most points at the end of the year earns the House Cup, and sometimes other privileges – one year, at the school ball, the winning House got to pick the first round of songs, for instance.

“If no-one has any questions about all of that, you can mingle and get to know your classmates for a while and have some snacks until we begin our tour of the mansion. If you do have any questions, feel free to come see me before we begin our tour – and welcome again to Sonora.”

OOC: Welcome first years to Sonora! You can post a reply here to ask staff questions or meet your new classmates. This thread is intended for first year students to have a chance to try out posting and get acclimated to the site before we throw you into the big Opening Feast, which is open to the entire school population and can be a bit overwhelming.

Now, go forth, new first years of Sonora! Post, enjoy, have fun! Everyone here is happy to help out, so if you've got a question, put it on the OOC board or try to catch somebody in the Chatzy and we'll try to get you an answer as quick as we can. Have fun and we’re glad you could join us!

[Credit to Nathan Xavier's author for the content of this OOC notice]
16 Grayson Wright Welcome to Sonora, First Years! (Orientation) 113 1 5

Xavier Lundstrom

February 26, 2021 11:38 PM
Xavier hopped off the wagon. Or, he hoped he did. He hoped he had enough jauntiness to hop, though he was sort of relieved to be off it. He had been on planes, and never got sick even when there was turbulence. He didn’t get car sick. He had sort of assumed that the wagon would be fine. And he supposed he didn’t feel sick per se, but during the wagon flight, his temples had felt tight and prickling, the same way they did when he was developing a migraine. That was absolutely not an option. He didn’t want to spend his first hours here with the school nurse, missing out on everything. Maybe it was just because he was worrying about it. Like, it would be the absolute worst start he could imagine and so he was imagining it – but only that.

So. He was at wizard school. So far, no one had jumped out and yelled ‘Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera’ and as this had got to the point where it had been going on for several weeks (by the time you counted the Explainer Guy and the shopping trip) and as he wasn’t sure anyone had the production capabilities let alone the budget for this, and he wasn’t even fully convinced they made ‘Candid Camera’ any more, he had tentatively concluded that this was real. He had to admit that once he’d held a magic wand (or actually like five fricking billion of them before one had finally ‘chosen’ him, whatever that meant) it had felt pretty real. Being in a flying wagon had definitely solidified that impression. The guy who greeted them looked more like he was some diehard fantasy nerd going to a convention, but still pretty wizardy.

It seemed like the guy had some stuff in common with regular teachers though, as his speech went on a bit explaining a bunch of rules. Still, Xavier tried to listen politely. He’d always been regarded as a good kid by most of his teachers, and by objective standards he was – he listened, was polite, did his homework. He just thought he’d probably be fine figuring most of this out without it being repeated. It wasn’t hard, and most of it had been in the school literature. At least the house stuff, and the exams and classes had definitely been mentioned. Xavier had paid more attention to the former and the latter, because exams seemed a long way off, but what kind of things he would do at wizard school was an interesting subject. He still wasn’t totally sure what to think of it all, especially as it meant moving away from his family, and it was something he didn’t share in common with his older brother, or else they’d have come for him a few years ago. He liked hanging with Joel, and rollerblading together, and whilst obviously literal magic school was a heck of an adventure and one you couldn’t say no to, he sort of wished he could have kept more of his old life too.

Still, if they could magic away his migraines, he would take it. The pinching feeling in his temples was easing, and he felt a bit more like himself by the time the introductions finished, so hopefully that was an issue for another day anyway. He only had them a couple of times a year, but he hated when they chose to hit just as something important was happening, and he didn’t want it to be everyone’s first impression of him. He made his way over to the refreshments, picking up a cookie that he didn’t quite feel like eating just yet (but double chocolate was bound to run out quickly), and going for the sensible option of taking some water. He sipped, but whilst he knew that would help, distraction seemed like the best medicine.

“Hi,” he smiled at a nearby classmate. “I’m Xavier. This is kinda wild, right?” he grinned, gesturing vaguely at the entirety of their surroundings.
13 Xavier Lundstrom So... wizard school 1529 0 5

Bobby Yu

February 27, 2021 12:09 AM
A boy was speaking. This jolted Bobby out of her wide-eyed tourist routine and back to reality. Well, not quite reality. This new version of reality, the one that popped into existence upon the arrival of that letter a few weeks ago. Bobby prided herself in being a fairly grounded person, and yet in this new school, she caught herself looking down at her feet every so often just to make sure she wasn't floating.

Ah yes, the speaking boy. Turning towards him, Bobby felt relief as her attention left the.... well everything, and focused on a more manageable situation. Except she hadn't heard what he'd said. His arms were up though, gesturing perhaps? Or maybe he was already performing some magic. This must be one wizard-born children she'd been hearing about. What was the etiquette for this situation? Was she supposed to bow, or worse, curtsey? She waved her arms as well in perfect imitation of his movement. Like in an unknown chess opening, mimicry is usually fine for the first few moves.

Unwilling to start her first conversation by saying, "what?" Bobby fell back on her go-to response. After the arm gesture, she trained her steady gaze on this boy and waited. In the past, people had described her stare as "unnerving." If she said nothing, hopefully he'd become uncomfortable enough to say something new. And that way, he wouldn't be able to tell how out of her element she was.
55 Bobby Yu What? 1530 0 5

Xavier Lundstrom

February 27, 2021 12:20 AM
The kid in front of him waved the same way Xavier had. And then just… stared. Okay. That was weird. Maybe it was a wizard thing? No one had told him about a weird etiquette thing around not speaking though, and the most common reason for doing either of those things at his old school had been because you were poking fun at someone.

“What?” he shrugged, because he felt that was kind of a valid response to someone just staring at you. What had he said? He’d just said this was wild. Maybe this kid was from one of those super posh magical families he’d heard a little bit about, and thought this was all perfectly normal. He sort of wanted to just stare back, or stick out his tongue, but he knew his mom would tell him not to be so rude. And maybe this kid would turn out to be Deaf or have some kind of learning problem and then he’d look like a jerk. Was that a possibility?

He bit back the words ‘Cat got your tongue’ for many of the same reasons. Plus cats had been on the approved pet list, and didn’t wizards use tongues in potions and stuff, and maybe that would be way too literal. This was already incredibly confusing.

“Or it’s all perfectly normal and I’m the weird one. Whatever,” he stated, with a shrug, deciding to take a bite of his cookie now more for something to do than because he was totally sure he wanted it.
13 Xavier Lundstrom What yourself 1529 0 5

Bobby Yu

February 27, 2021 12:37 AM
Staring was useful for a number of reasons. First, it gave Bobby a sense of control. Second, it prompted the boy to make the first move. Third, and most importantly, it gave Bobby time to observe before she made her opening move. While speaking, he shrugged twice. The boy seemed to be out of his comfort zone, which meant her initial assessment might have been off. After speaking, he also bit into his cookie with something that looked a little like defiance. She wasn't sure, but it meant she might not be the only one on uneven footing here.

"What?" The boy said the word that had been bouncing around in her head ever since she stepped into the wagon. "Or it’s all perfectly normal and I’m the weird one. Whatever." There it was. The opening move of this interaction, something to respond to directly. And that was something Bobby had no trouble doing.

"You might be the weird one, but none of this feels normal, at least not to me. My name is Bobby." Reaching out her hand, Bobby introduced herself the only way she knew how, ready to give his hand a firm but reassuring shake. It was unclear if this was going to be a future ally or future enemy, but the initial handshake would be revealing either way.
55 Bobby Yu Opening Move 1530 0 5

Xavier Lundstrom

February 27, 2021 1:07 AM
Xavier grinned, pretty self-assured that he wasn’t actually the weird one. He was from suburban Minnesota. He climbed trees, rollerbladed, and went to church on Sundays. He was pretty sure he was as normal as apple pie. Apart from the whole being a wizard thing, but that went for everyone else here too. The thing that people most often commented on being interesting about him was his surname. He’d got that from his Swedish dad, but most of his looks - dark hair, dark eyes - came from his Italian mother. Not that the mismatch really seemed to bother anyone, and not that they were those things in any sense beyond it dictating their very strong opinions about Olive Garden and... and whatever Swedish people cared about. A vague mistrust of sunlight? Cinnamon rolls? He thought those might be culturally Swedish, and his dad certainly loved them but he was also pretty sure that almost everyone loved cinnamon rolls.

He thought Bobby might be slightly weird, because what eleven-year-olds shook hands? He pretty much expected it to be snatched away and turned into a joke at the last minute, but he wouldn’t have done that to someone and decided to extend the same level of trust in return. Plus it was better than the staring, so he reached out to shake the offered hand. He sort of initially felt pretty vague about doing that, but when he noticed that Bobby was squeezing hard, he returned equal pressure, wondering if that was the trap and they were gonna squeeze each other’s hands until one of them cracked and called for mercy. He wouldn’t exactly start something like that but he also wasn’t going to back down without giving it a good go.

“Cool,” he smiled. Having already given his name, he didn’t bother repeating it. “So, the whole magic thing is new to you too?” he checked his understanding of what Bobby had said. “I think it’s gonna be fun though!” he tried. His first instinct had been to fall back on ‘weird’ or ‘wild’ but the latter hadn’t provoked a positive response before. “I mean, it’s like… magic, so it’s gotta be pretty interesting, right?” he offered.

He washed down his mouthful of cookie with some water, definitely feeling better.

OOC: Lines like saying 'he noticed that Bobby was squeezing hard' might be considered writing for another character, but your post seemed to imply that that's what she would do if he shook her hand. Continuing and ending small actions like that and making those kind of inferences are usually okay, though if you're not sure you can always check with the other author. If I wasn't accurate, feel free to DM me and I'll correct it. You can also assume that Xavier will let go again if she does, seeing as he's said he is mirroring her. If they end up in a wrestling match, that might change the ending I go for...
13 Xavier Lundstrom Took you long enough 1529 0 5

Iris Cobb

February 27, 2021 5:57 AM
Determined not to repeat the antics of her brother last year, Iris was sure to behave properly as the wagon descended to pick her and Billy up from Farmer Ben's field at the bottom of the mountain. It wasn't quite as large of a send off this year, as they had been informed that it really only should be the 'immediate' family that should see magical things. As such, she had to say her farewells to Gramps, Granny and everyone else before they left. When the wagon landed, she dutifully said her farewells to her parents along with the standard promises to be good and such. Billy had already clambered into the wagon and seemed to be nodding rather dismissively at Ma's talk.

"Come on sis!" He encouraged her to hurry up, "We ain't got all day."

Iris sighed, and debated lingering a bit longer just to annoy him. It was Pa that scooted her towards the wagon with a "Keep an eye on yer brother now. See if'n you can't keep him outta some trouble." His voice was gruff as usual, but still tender. He lifted her up easily, wrapped her in a hug and set her on the wagon before stepping back.

With a lurch, the wagon set off once more on it's journey. Iris had to grab the railing to stay on her feet as she waved to her folks dwindling below and behind her. She turned towards her brother and saw him lazily sprawled out conversing with Archie. She rolled her eyes and found a seat on the other side of the wagon and watched the land roll by below them as they traveled. It was a nice trip, far nicer than that other method they'd used to go see Billy's concert. She was excited to see Lydia again, the few letters they had exchanged since the concert had been really good.

When the wagons landed at the school, Billy catapulted himself over the side and ran off in search of his roommates. Thanks big brother, Iris thought to herself as she climbed down with the rest of the students. Fortunately, as expected, one of the teachers was there to meet them. She thought she recognized seeing him at the concert and followed along behind him as instructed.

She hadn't gotten to see much outside the school when she'd visited. Professor Wright led them through the 'tree wall' area as Billy still liked to call it. Upon arrival at the open area, she took in the scene briefly. Billy apparently hadn't been lying about that magic rock that squirted water into the air. The professor told them to pick up one of the green folders so she did so. Her stomach rumbled a little as her gaze swept over the food table. She'd been to excited to eat much that morning, but the professor wanted to talk first, so she turned her attention his way again.

Iris listened intently to the speech the professor gave about the school. A good bit of it she knew from reading the material they'd been given. A little bit of it she knew because of Billy. Much of that made more sense coming from the professor than it had from her brother. Once he was finished, she turned quickly back to the food tables. Her stomach was definitely complaining by now.

Much of the food looked strange to her, so she watched the other new students for a moment to see what they did. Then following suit, she picked up one of the flimsy seeming plates and put a few of what seemed to be the more popular choices upon it along with some fruit that was hard to mistake for anything else. Now she had been told to mingle and get to know her classmates. She took that to mean she should find someone other than Lydia to talk to since she already kinad knew her. So she approached someone who wasn't already talking to someone else. Fortunately, Billy had also told her how introductions worked, and that seemed to have been the right way to do it at the concert. "Hello," she smiled and greeted her fellow student. "I'm Iris Cobb of the Kentucky Cobbs. How do you do?"

OOC: Billy Cobb is also my character, so writing his actions is okay.
2 Iris Cobb This is excellent 1526 0 5

Reighleigh Mae Thorn

February 27, 2021 10:33 AM
With one last "Behave yourself, Reighleigh Mae" from her mother, Ray was off, leaving the name and the world behind her. She wasn't going to miss the frufru of it all, although it had been a long time since her mother had managed to force much on her. In a big way, leaving her muggle mother and stepping into the world her father was from felt like a great big way to tell her mom to back off, although she knew it wasn't really the case. For one, her mom would never back off. Given to irony, Ray had worn a small tiara to say her farewell, happy to show one more time just how ridiculous that whole world looked on her anymore. She wasn't part of it. She refused to be part of it. She wanted to forget it.

Stepping off the wagons, her face set in its usual sneer that she hoped wouldn't reveal to anyone how sick the ride had made her, Ray followed the rest of the first years who followed the dude who looked so much like a wizard that it was sort of hilarious. This was the sort of irony she could get behind, even if it wasn't ironic for him, and she made a mental note to get some good witchy hats to wear at home.

The speech was fine, the information was fine, it was all fine. It was good information but Ray wasn't about to let that show. She had better things to do, like size up her new classmates. Apparently, she was one of the only ones doing that with any finesse because someone approached her even though she made a point of looking generally unapproachable. She'd gone to get a few grapes and some juice right away, not waiting for permission from the wizard dude but also not actively disturbing the meeting either, and now that everyone else was doing the same, she'd been watching. See who talked to whom, how people were dressed, how people behaved... And someone walked up to her.

She introduced herself like a Pureblood and Ray's knowledge of the magic world clashed with her muggle assumptions about people from Kentucky. Was this girl just straight up southern belle or was there something more interesting about her? Ray doubted it.

She popped another grape in her mouth, looking at Iris - seriously, she was even named after a flower?? - and waiting long enough to reply that she couldn't be mistaken for caring. "Yo," she replied, keeping a disinterested expression. "I'm fine. Ray," she added, since she didn't want to be unknown either.
22 Reighleigh Mae Thorn Sure. 1525 0 5

Constance Melcher

February 27, 2021 12:37 PM
Mother said to be good and study hard, which was silly because Constance was always good and always studied hard. But she knew what the gesture meant. Hugs and kisses finalized her goodbyes to her parents, and then she found herself peering out the window at a wagon approaching their home, and it was time to go.

The moment Constance was seated, she tied back her flowing red hair, a sight that Mother would not have approved of, but putting back her hair always gave her a sense of power and intellect that hair-down simply did not have. It provided a clarity of sorts, and Constance wanted her mind to be sharp for the long wagon ride. She produced a book from the same pocket the hair tie had come from, and the bumpy motion faded away.

When it was finally time to dismount the wagon, she put the book away and let her hair back down, wanting to offer a better presentation for her first appearance at Sonora. Her doe-like blue eyes grew even wider as she marvelled at the area around her. Connie’s dad was an alum, and he had described the school in diction-perfect description that somehow still fell short. Truly, it was a place that one had to see to fully comprehend.

She was fully attentive to the Professor’s introductory information despite already basically knowing all of it, a perfect student as always. Constance planned to be committing professors’ names to memory as her immediate first action, but Professor Wright’s was immediately of the utmost importance, as there was little doubt in her mind which House she would be Sorted into: his, Aladren. That was her father had been, and it was where she would go, too.

Professor Wright dismissed them to the refreshments and each other’s company, and Connie, finding neither of those especially appealing, opened her orientation folder and began to skim through all of the material. But then a question popped into her mind. Remembering that the professor had said to see him if they had any questions, she approached. “Good day, Professor Wright,” she said politely. “My name is Constance Melcher, and I have a question. Will there be a password to get into the Aladren Common Room, or will it be a puzzle? I like puzzles.”
12 Constance Melcher Wandering and wondering [Tag: Professor] 1523 0 5

Iris Cobb

February 27, 2021 7:23 PM
Iris was a little confused. The girl she had greeted acted... disinterested? That in itself was probably fine, perhaps she missed her family and wasn't entirely comfortable in this new environment. She could certainly relate at some level, but she didn't really want that to show. However, she hadn't really returned the proper greeting. Perhaps she was completely new to this magic thing, as Billy had been last year. Perhaps though, she eyed the small crown upon the girl's head, perhaps she is actual royalty and didn't want to talk an ordinary commoner like herself. The few stories that she had read that involved princesses indicated that they were generally nice and friendly people though. She was rather glad that she was wearing her generic school robe though, she was afraid her hand-me-down dress under it wasn't going to impress an actual princess very much.

She was also a little confused as to why the girl had just called her 'Ray' when she had or at least she thought she had clearly said her name was Iris. Maybe it was some sort of nickname thing? She honestly wasn't quite sure what do do with the conversation next, but she was tasked with getting to know this princess. "I'm glad to hear that," she paused just a moment then decided to try returning the nickname back to her. Perhaps that was a sign of friendship where she came from. "Ray." It then struck her that 'Ray' might be some sort of slang term for a commoner and she may have just insulted the girl.

Attempting to distract her and change the topic of conversation, as much as there was one at this point, she asked a question that the girl's introduction hadn't answered. "Have you come here from far away?"
2 Iris Cobb You don't quite seem excited 1526 0 5

Grayson Wright

February 27, 2021 8:02 PM
The child would have been an easy one, Gray suspected, to learn to match a name to – even with her hair back, it was still a remarkably distinctive feature – but she promptly made herself even more distinctive after he’d finished the Orientation speech. Gray blinked in surprise and peered at the child through his glasses, trying to figure out if she was in earnest or if she was trying to set him up to end up on the wrong end of a practical joke of some kind.

“Puzzles can be very fun to do,” he said agreeably, “and you’ll have many opportunities to solve them while you’re at Sonora. I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about how enter any of the Houses at this time. If you’re Sorted into Aladren, you’ll learn how the door works after the Opening Feast later tonight.”

If she was setting him up, it would be best for him to stop talking now, as he thought he had avoided any bait there might have been in the original question. However, he was curious…

“Do you think you will be Sorted into Aladren?” he asked, indulging the moment of idle curiosity. At the very least, it would be a moment’s diversion from the otherwise tedious task of supervising the Orientation social period. It seemed likely she did, so he hoped she wasn't too literal-minded, and might explain why she had asked that question.
16 Grayson Wright Be careful wondering while wandering, you might lose your way. 113 0 5

Reighleigh Mae Thorn

February 27, 2021 8:28 PM
"Ray," she repeated, not sure if Iris was aiming for clarification or what. She wasn't about to drop her full name in her first conversation here, even though everyone would hear it in rollcall soon anyway. That didn't bother her because it gave her the chance to make it well known that she didn't like it and making things well known meant being well known and being well known for not liking something was cool. But just name dropping her own stupid name in her own conversation seemed a little too extra so she passed it up. "Ray Thorn," she added. "Since we're doing full names apparently."

She gave Iris a new look of something almost like curiosity when she asked about where Ray was from, wondering if she was asking because she was curious or because she was from a muggle background after all. Wizards didn't seem to care how far away stuff was, if her dad was anything to judge by (but he probably wasn't), but that didn't mean that Iris wasn't just asking about it because she was curious about Ray's hometown maybe. Or because she hadn't included it in her introduction and the girl was just as bad as the stuck up preppy snots at Ray's old school.

"I live in Denver," she said with half a shrug, eating another grape. Denver didn't hold any real special place in Ray's heart but it was home, she supposed. Still, it was different being from somewhere and living somewhere. Near as Ray could tell, she wasn't from anywhere. She'd learned to like that about herself; if you didn't fit in anywhere you'd ever been, you'd only been to the wrong places, right? She was pretty convinced that there were fairies and goblins and stuff in Denver, but she wasn't sure if she was one of them. If she was, she hoped she wasn't a goblin. Her dad said goblins worked in banks a lot but she wasn't sure if he was joking because he didn't like to talk to her about magic creatures. She knew fairies had to be darker than they were in Peter Pan, but that was about her only frame of reference except some stuff on the internet. Still, if it turned out she was just a witch and not a fairy, that was still sort of alright. That wasn't something she was about to broach with someone who maybe was a Pureblood and maybe knew a lot about this stuff though. She'd need more information first. "You know about Colorado?" she asked, hoping to make something of this girl's background.
22 Reighleigh Mae Thorn Being excited is overrated and cynical is safer. 1525 0 5

Iris Cobb

February 27, 2021 9:03 PM
Ohh... Ray was her name. That made more sense.. sort of. She had a cousin named Ray, who was a boy. So she kinda thought Ray was a boy's name, but maybe not? She supposed it didn't really matter, if she was named Ray, she was named Ray. She hadn't included the title of 'princess' in her full name, but the crown made that fairly obvious so perhaps she didn't want to flaunt her status more overtly than that. Well that was okay, Iris thought if she was a princess, she may not always want to be known as such either.

Ray was from Denver. That was the capital of Colorado, she only knew this because the only book Billy really liked at home was the stupid atlas they had on the shelf and he was planning all the places he was going to go once he was able to. "A little bit," Iris answered honestly. "I've never been there though, is it nice?" She wasn't sure if Colorado had a different system of government than Kentucky did to have a princess, but now that she actually thought about it she wasn't actually sure what sort of government Kentucky actually had. They didn't really interact much with folks off the mountain, and that included the government folk. Pa seemed to have an aversion to them more so than the regular city folk.

This was good though, she was accomplishing her goal. She was getting to know her classmate. This girl was Princess Ray Thorn from Denver, Colorado. It suddenly occurred to her that Ray had the same assignment and needed to know about her in order to complete it. What else could she share? "I have an older brother that goes here as well, he is in the year above us. I know of Denver and Colorado because of him," she admitted. "He wants to 'travel the world' once he's old enough. Do you have any siblings?"
2 Iris Cobb Is there any middle ground? 1526 0 5

Hansel Hexenmeister

February 27, 2021 9:50 PM
Hansel looked beyond the side of the wagon and didn't stare around in gob-smacked wonder because he'd been here twice before and the two concerts had done a good job of preparing him for what to expect when he arrived, in terms of what the place looked like and the number of two-legs walking around. Without that, though, he probably would have been stunned, even with Hilda and Heinrich having described the school to him, because he wouldn't have had any kind of frame of reference to grasp what they meant by 'a lot of people'. In Hansel's memory, 'a lot of people' was when Evelyn or the Zauberhexens came visiting, or they travelled to Germany to visit Johana Leonie and Freddie, which was a whole other country, and America must just have a lot less people than that.

America did not have a whole lot less people than that. Utah had a whole lot less people than that. He knew that because the Concerts gave him wide enough experience to let him question the assumption that Utah was representative of all of America. It wasn't.

Sonora was quite different from Utah, with the bright and cheerful garden, and the large and ornate white stucco building. Stucco was about the only thing it had in common with Hansel's home, which was small and blocky, and built by his uncle when Karl thought he was going to spend his entire life alone in the dessert. He'd put on a small addition when he was suddenly the guardian of three children, but even with that, it was still a very modest house.

But now this was going to be his home when he wasn't at home, and it felt kind of strange, and kind of grown-up, and kind of like he was abandoning Uncle Karl, and he wasn't sure he wanted it now that it was actually here.

At least he had Coriander with him. Cori was a little piece of home he got to bring with him. He would have liked to be carrying him wrapped around his wrist, but he'd been instructed that the little green snake had to be kept contained. For travel, it was probably safer for him to be inside the enclosure anyway, and even though them man was telling him to leave his luggage in the wagon, Cori was not luggage, and he grabbed the transparent carrying case to bring with him to the orientation.

He checked to make sure all of the other students had already disembarked before he addressed his companion. "We'd done bumping now," he hissed quietly in reassurance to the scared snake who had not liked the turbulence of flying at all. "We're back on solid ground." Hansel had whispered to him a few times during the trip, when the plaintive cries of 'I'm scared. What's happening?' had made him feel particularly bad about putting the poor thing through this, and he hoped the other students sitting closest hadn't heard anything more than that Hans was whispering.

Pa said it wasn't a good idea to let people know he could talk to snakes.

He climbed down carefully, trying not to jostle Cori any more than he had to, and joined the man calling for first years to join him. They gathered there, and he said hello to a few people, being careful to use English and not Parseltongue. It was harder to transition between those than it was to go between English and German.

When it seemed they had everyone from all of the wagons, the Professor led them into Labyrinth and to a courtyard with a fountain spewing real water. They had some areas of open water on the ranch, but those were in magically controlled shelters that mimicked some of the more humid environments some of the more tropical and water-dependent snakes needed, and this was right out in the open under the sun.

He made himself not stare at the fountain and grab a green folder instead. He'd picked Cori because he was a Smooth Green Snake, and Sonora's school color was green, but Cori was definitely a much brighter green than both the folder and his own new school robes.

He listened attentively as Professor Wright explained things about the school. He had two older siblings so already knew about most of it - the griping about how the CATS and RATS were breaking their brains had been particularly notable in the letters he got from them at the end of last year, but fortunately he felt like he had a long time to go before major exams would be one of his problems - but it was still helpful to have it all explained in one go like that. Heinrich didn't talk that much, and Hilda was never one to dwell too long on any topic other than Quidditch or her friend group.

They were told to go mingle, so Hansel approached another student, and greeted them in perfectly fluent English, that had a distinct German accent to it more because the people he learned English from had one than because German had influenced his language development. He'd been four when he was first exposed to English and he'd learned them both almost concurrently. "Hi, I'm Hansel. That wagon ride was pretty wild, wasn't it?" He swapped Cori's carrier to his other hand because the first hand was getting cramped holding it.
1 Hansel Hexenmeister So this is Sonora 1524 0 5

Reighleigh Mae Thorn

February 28, 2021 11:02 AM
Ray shrugged again. She was running out of grapes so she'd have to make do with some good body language to get her by. "It's alright. Lot of people and kinda dirty, but it depends on where you live," she said nonchalantly, in case Iris thought there was any problem with living around a lot of people in a dirty city. There wasn't. That was just how some people lived, even if their stupid moms liked to think they were better than that. "There's some good places to get outdoors if you're into that kind of thing," she added, watching Iris for a reaction to that bit. Outside was important, that's where the spirits lived. Well, there and in old abandoned places, but those were harder to get to and those spirits were usually angry so Ray tried to leave them alone. She was angry, sure, but a spirit with centuries to hone their own anger was gonna be more dangerous than she was.

She perked up a little in hearing that this girl had an older brother here. That might be useful if he wasn't a total jerk or something. Iris seemed sort of weird but she wasn't a jerk, so maybe decency ran in the family. Wouldn't that be a nice change of pace. Ray wasn't too sure about how magic bloodlines worked or anything so she wasn't sure whether an older brother at school here meant that Iris was more or less likely to be pureblooded but so far there were a lot of boxes ticked in that column. Ray wasn't too sure she wanted to be associated with Pureblood society but at least it might be entertaining for her and certainly useful as she got started.

"What about you, Strawberry Shortcake?" Ray asked, raising a heavily penciled eyebrow, a daring smile on her face as she opened a can of possibilities for this young homebody. "You wanna travel and see stuff? It's called 'wanderlust' and it's a good thing in my book." Travel was the chance to get away from home, to get away from a world that didn't want her, and if that meant getting a ride on a hashtag, she'd take it. At least it meant she could spin running away a little more positively this time. "No, I don't have siblings. At least, not that I know of."
22 Reighleigh Mae Thorn Living on the edge, inside and out? 1525 0 5

Constance Melcher

February 28, 2021 12:30 PM
“I don’t think it,” Constance replied somewhat curtly, “I know it. My father was an Aladren who graduated twenty-three years ago. My mother went to Hogwarts in the United Kingdom and she was a Ravenclaw - that is their equivalent academic house. So you might as well just answer my question.”

She did not intend to come across quite so bluntly or perhaps even rudely, nor did she even possess awareness of the fact. But Constance was not one to avoid a point of fact. She understood Professor Wright’s hesitation to reveal Aladren secrets, but she was inevitably and invariably heading that way, and it was only a matter of hours, if that, before it was official. Not to mention, she hadn’t asked what the password would be, or what kind of puzzle might await her, so it was not even truly revealing anything.

Constance was a little under average height for her age, so to make eye contact with an adult man, she had to stare basically straight up, with her neck crooked back. But she did, blue eyes wide and open, unafraid of the eye contact. She would not be the one to break first because it didn’t occur to her that it might be something to avoid or feel uncomfortable about. Connie was never uncomfortable. She could simply think her way through anything. So she just stared at him now, awaiting the information she sought. Surely a man of academics like Professor Wright would not keep information away from her.
12 Constance Melcher I doubt that. 1523 0 5

Alexei Vorontsov

February 28, 2021 3:46 PM
On the wagon, Alexei Vorontsov had sat very still (well, at least as still as the vehicle he had been clinging to the edges of his seat in had allowed him to), his expression one of mild neutrality – his forehead smooth, his mouth a closed bow, nearly straight across except for the slight natural downturn of the corners. Only his eyes – blue-grey and bright with curiosity – had given anyone who noticed him there any hint, as they had moved eagerly around the inside of the wagon and studied other people and wondered how they were like him and how they were not, about the existence of his mix of excitement and nerves.

The differences, he worried, might be more important than the similarities. At first, listening to his sisters Tatiana and Katerina talk about their experiences, he had gathered that everyone was going to be extremely different from him, simply because they were mostly going to be culturally American. However (perhaps in part due to Tatiana’s dearest friend being actually half-Chinese and half-French Canadian, but more, he suspected, because of differences between Tatya and Katya as people), none of their anecdotes had been able to give him a clear picture of what that even meant.

To a degree, of course, there were bound to be similarities. His eldest sister, Anna, had pointed this out to him at one point; though Anya had been especially irked that Mama and Papa had decided to send Alexei south for his education instead east into Russia proper, she had clearly wanted him to feel better about it, and had always gone out of her way to ensure he did when she noticed he was troubled. I imagine Americans are much like anyone else, Alyosha, she had told him. Some of them will be nice people, and some will not be very nice people, and some will not really be either way. But don’t worry about it, Baby-darling; if Tatya and Katya can both make friends with some of them, you shouldn’t have any problems.

He was old enough now that it kind of annoyed him when Anya called him ‘Baby-darling’ – she was fourteen years his senior, and was married with a little daughter, and sometimes she seemed to almost forget he was her brother and to think of him like a nephew if he was lucky or a child like his little niece if he was not – but since it had come with good advice, he had let it go that time. Anya had a way, he thought, of always cutting through complications and applying reason to the heart of the matter. Even Anya, however, could not change the fact that the one thing Tatya and Katya agreed on was that Americans were full of habits which were (to him) strange, and that they would find his habits just as peculiar as he found theirs, and that it was possible some of them would try to cause him extra difficulties. Fair was fair, of course – he couldn’t imagine everyone in his village in Alaska, or even on the larger scale of the city in Russia he had spent most of the past year in, readily taking to someone whose behavior actively seemed rude by their accustomed standards – but agreeing that it was fair did not make it any less intimidating to be the person walking into the situation where he didn’t know who would or wouldn’t immediately dislike him simply because he was from somewhere else.

Alexei loved Tatya dearly, but she had not been much help. She had shrugged and announced that anyone who would dislike him because he was Russian was stupid and that he should ignore them. Tatiana, however, was…overwhelmingly comfortable with just…being herself. Alexei did not go to great efforts to conform himself into shapes that were not natural, either, but there was such a thing as taking anything too far and he thought Tatya might take it too far sometimes. To his surprise, though, he had accidentally gotten better reassurance from Katya. His youngest sister (who was still six years his senior) had talked a lot, whey they had met over the summer, about how happy it had made her to put together a Russian fairy tale masque for the school Concert he had attended – that she had been afraid to so openly associate herself with her own culture, but that her friends still seemed to like her. She had found some way to balance living among the Americans and having friends among them for most of the year with their own traditions. It was a thing that could be done.

In theory, anyway. It remained to see if he could pull it off. At this point, he was relieved to get on with it, rather than sitting around thinking about it anymore, which was not very productive.

Stepping off of the wagon, he looked around slowly, taking in a piece of the grounds he had not seen when he had visited the school at Midsummer to see Katya’s show. He also took in the sight of a wizard he had seen on that occasion: an adult with dark hair and glasses, who seemed to want…something?

First yeers - somehow, the first word made sense, but the second one landed awkwardly on his ears, and for a moment, he couldn’t understand it. Then, though, he figured it out from context combined with the memory of some of his reading: oh, yes, that was what he was now. He was a ‘first year,’ to use the English phrase. He rubbed one of his ears; he thought he might have had better luck had so many other people not also been talking, calling to one another, carrying on conversations, greeting friends, he assumed – all as if one of their schoolmasters was not standing right there and speaking at all!

Nerves were inevitable in a situation like this, but at this development, Alexei felt his first stirring of unease. If everyone else felt free to keep talking while the teachers were talking, how was he ever supposed to learn anything? He would have found that next to impossible in Russian. Trying to keep his unease off his face, he followed the teacher when bidden to do so, being careful not to let himself study the other first years as they walked, as that would probably be rude.

To his relief, when they stopped and Professor…Rite? (Interesting name; he knew the word ‘rite’ from some of his English books, and it seemed like it was more likely to be a teacher’s name than the similar-sounding word which meant a direction, but he really had not expected to have to call someone either of those words at all) began to speak again, his classmates made less noise than people had at the wagons. Apparently, either people in his year had a better understanding of something like proper respect, or everyone understood better when the group was small enough for an individual to be called out for misbehavior. Frowning a little in concentration, Alexei took in as much of the speech as he could, trying to ignore how his fingers were itching for a quill, and how he felt like he ought to treat this as an exercise in taking dictation….

When the speech ended and it seemed they were going to be left to their own devices for a while, Alexei was careful to turn the corners of his mouth just a little bit up, recalling what his sisters had said about American smiles. To his delight, it seemed he must have done it right, because he was almost immediately rewarded with someone coming to speak to him!

“Hello,” he said, smiling genuinely, now, because he was so pleased with himself for remembering that detail and apparently applying it correctly. His English carried a Russian accent only a little more pronounced than Hansel’s German one, but it was also burdened in a way the other boy’s was not with a certain air of formality: although he had technically been born in America and lived there all but the most recent year of his life, his English was clearly that of a well-educated foreigner, not someone who had grown up speaking English ‘at home’ with his family, unless Tatiana practicing English on him when he had been a baby and she had first been learning it counted, which he didn’t think it did. “I am Alexei.” It felt a bit odd to just use his first name, but he was very confident that the other boy had just done the same thing; he had heard he might meet some people with names odd enough that it was not immediately obvious they were names, but Hansel was something he recognized as a given name. “The ride…”

He was trying to formulate a response to the idea that the ride had been both lovely to look upon and undomesticated, but before he got that far, his attention was seized by the container Hansel moved from one hand to the other. He looked at the thing inside it and blinked. “You have a…” Words flashed through his head – seek, snack, sack, knack – no, that was going into rhyming words, he did not want rhyming words. Zmeya definitely started with a ‘s’ in English, it was a beginning sound. The end sounds were less important now, assuming he matched them to beginning sounds correctly. “Sneak,” he observed, with more confidence than he should have. “Did you catch him-or-her?”
16 Alexei Vorontsov Yes, it seems to be. 1531 0 5

Iris Cobb

February 28, 2021 6:18 PM
'Lots of people and dirty' may have been how Iris had described her life on the mountain, at least up until she went on her shopping trip to the magical section of Lexington. It was at that point that she had seen 'a lot of people' all living together. The sections of Lexington that she had seen weren't exactly 'dirty'. She really hadn't seen much dirt at all in the city, It had been interesting to see, but she'd been eager to get back home again to some more open areas.

The thought led nicely into Ray's next statement, and Iris gave the princess a warm smile. "I do prefer the outdoors more'n the city. When I went shopping for school supplies, Lexington was nice enough, but it felt very crowded when compared ta home."

"Strawberry...?" Without thinking about it, Iris looked over her shoulder back at the food table. She was pretty sure she hadn't seen any there, or she definitely would have gotten some. Nope, she didn't see any. So... what was Princess Ray talking about? Wait, did she just get a nickname? She may have just gotten a nickname from a princess! As for Ray's question though, "I certainly don't have anything agains' traveling," She began, then continued with a bit of reluctance "But, I'm not sure it's something I'd spend a lot of time doin'." She thought this might not be the 'right' answer for Ray. She got the impression that the other girl might just get along with Billy better than her on this front. Still lying wasn't right.

Iris was momentarily startled by Ray's response about her sibling status. How could one not be sure if they had any siblings or not? Then she remembered that Ray was a princess and that it seemed like in a fair amount of those stories the royalty did have a difficult time keeping track of their children. "Do you think you would like to?" Those lost royal siblings usually turned up at some point in the stories, she wondered if Ray would have that happen.
2 Iris Cobb Sounds dangerous... but possible. 1526 0 5

Grayson Wright

February 28, 2021 10:07 PM
It would not, Gray knew, do at all to judge an eleven-year-old girl from such a small sample of her behavior. It was entirely possible that she was generally a decent child who simply lacked particularly good manners, rather than a spoiled brat accustomed to the world bending itself to her will. Despite this knowledge, however, he could not help but raise an eyebrow of disapproval at her tone.

“My father and I are also alumni of this school,” he observed. “I was an Aladren – graduated twenty-five years ago, actually, so I probably knew your father.” Curiosity poked its head up again; he had kept his head most frequently in the clouds in his school years, but Aladren had been a small place, and he didn’t think he remembered anyone who’d looked particularly like her…Had he seen any familiar names - familiar from the old days, that was, not from the current other or recent other students - on the new student rolls? ”My father, though, was a Crotalus, he would never have even come close to being an Aladren. You might have a better than average chance of being in Aladren, but there’s plenty of evidence against your claim that it’s a guarantee,” he concluded mildly. He didn’t wish to upset her, or descend to arguing with a first year, just to offer a mild rebuke in the hopes she’d prove herself a decent child who was overexcited or over-tired at the moment, or the like.

“Plus, you don’t seem to have considered very many options for how doors may be opened,” he pointed out. “As it happens, Aladren doesn’t use a password or a puzzle. Can you think of any other ways the common room might be accessed?”
16 Grayson Wright Doubt is healthy - in moderation. 113 0 5

Constance Melcher

March 01, 2021 5:56 PM
Were she any other eleven year old, she might have given in to the urge to pout. But Constance was not, and she would never stoop to such childlike behaviors, so she forced her lip to remain exactly where it ought to be, in perfect alignment with its mate.

Professor Wright did technically have a point. Sure, one was not always the same House as one’s parents. There were surely many examples of that even beyond the professor and his father. But Constance was an exact and perfect amalgamation of her parents, in her opinion. A little more behaviorally her dad, a little more physically her mom, maybe, but averaging out exactly. And even the Mom sides valued intellect above almost all else - otherwise, her parents would not have gotten along the way they did. Their romance was intelligent and loving.

Obviously, this meant Professor Wright had not recognized her surname, or perhaps he just didn’t realize Quentin Melcher had a daughter to connect the names. He did say that he had graduated only two years earlier than her dad, though, and Sonora was not an especially big school. She had no idea how long Professor Wright had been teaching, though, so he had most likely seen a wide variety of familiarity regarding the names of his pupils, completing a full range: decidedly familiar, vaguely familiar, and completely new. It would be hard to store that many names in anyone’s head, even an Aladren’s.

Her wide eyes lit up at the notion of a possibility she had missed. “Ooooh!” she exclaimed happily, her hands clapping together. Connie gave a big grin, the most childlike and excited she had appeared thus far, a break in her otherwise stern and no-nonsense presentation. She loved a challenge. “How exciting!” She felt the urge to pull up her hair to think about these possibilities but realized she had already done so. Was that while she was looking at her folder a bit ago? She could not recall. “It must be something clever. A trivia question perhaps? Can you give me a hint, please?”
12 Constance Melcher A doubt a day keeps the children's psychologist away 1523 0 5

Grayson Wright

March 02, 2021 2:44 PM
Gray had felt reasonably confident that he hadn’t said anything so severely as to make anyone cry, but he had certainly not expected the girl to smile, much less for her to smile so suddenly and gleefully that he automatically smiled back for a moment. She seemed utterly delighted, as if he had serendipitously just presented her with one of her favorite things in the world – as if she enjoyed having blind spots in her thinking pointed out!

Yes, he thought; she was probably right. Most likely, she was going to be one of his.

“Hint. Hm.” Was there anything that could be said which wouldn’t constitute saying too much, just in case she did end up in Pecari instead…if she wasn’t in Aladren, he thought Pecari was the only other probable option. ‘Hidden in plain sight’ was more about the location than the door itself, and definitely saying far too much…

“Magic is involved in how it works,” he said finally, after a moment’s thought, “but you don’t need a wand or a word to use it.”

Meanwhile, as he had been consciously trying to put together a riddle for her, something else had been nagging a little at the back of his mind. He had been distracted from her introduction first by surprise at her question, then by mild offense at her manner, and then by surprise again by her manner’s abrupt transmutation into glee, but she had given him two pieces of information in the course of their conversation, and the one which had not quite registered before reasserted itself and then presented itself in the context of the other one…

“Your father,” he said abruptly. “Is his name Quentin?”
16 Grayson Wright Something like that, anyway. 113 0 5

Winston Randall

March 03, 2021 8:18 AM
Winston was in no way convinced this was a good plan. Indeed, he was pretty sure it was a terrible one. Sure, he was magic. Sure, Sonora made more sense for his family than Ilvermorney or something. Sure, he was eleven and thus of the proper age to begin his formal magical education. But he was Winston Randall and that had never ever boded well. It wasn't that there was anything strictly wrong with his family (although there was) or that he was a disappointing child (although he was), it was that he simply wasn't the sort of person who jumped into new things with any sort of excitement about having to do so. But yet, here he was, stepping off a flying wagon to join his new peers in a whacky new adventure that was almost definitely not a good plan.

Professor Wright seemed like a very wise sort of fellow, the sort who would know the rules and suggest they be followed. He seemed a bit tittering, which Winston could understand, and perhaps a bit curious, which he could not. He also seemed knowledgable though and that was good because Winston was not. He needed to know what the rules of the game were going to be in this place if he was going to be forced to play it and that did seem to be exactly what he was forced to do. So he kept his eyes on the professor, even when they wanted to wander back to where the older students were getting off the wagons and where he might be able to spot someone who was apparently his brother even if not really. That guy was more of a nothing than Winston himself was and that was saying something.

When the professor was done, it was time to get snacks and mingle. Since Winston was pretty alright with exactly half of that, he made his way to the table first, grabbing a cup of pumpkin juice and sipping on that, glad for something familiar to settle his nerves before he tried to eat anything substantial. Dinner was soon, he knew, and trying to get a sandwich or something in before then didn't seem wise.

He was determined not to socialize. He simply wasn't going to do it. It would be scary and hard and probably not go anywhere because he wasn't the type of person that people liked to socialize with, he was sure. However, others seemed not to have gotten the owl about that because a student approached him shortly and began speaking.
22 Winston Randall What now? 1527 0 5

Hansel Hexenmeister

March 04, 2021 5:50 PM
Hansel had expected everyone he met to have a different accent to his own - well, other than Hilda, Freddie, and Johana Leonie - and his very first introduction to Sonora, a little over five years ago, had been a welcoming banner in many different languages. He was still a little surprised to be met with a Russian (probably, maybe) accent coming from the first year mate he talked to. Nice.

Cori almost immediately derailed the conversation starter Hansel had put out there as a nice neutral shared experience, but that was fine. Hansel like talking about snakes. "Snake," he corrected the pronunciation absently, with the off-hand casualness of a person who was very accustomed to helping other people find the right English word when it escaped them. After a moment he realized what he'd just done, and that Alexei was very definitely not Hilda, and Hansel hoped he hadn't just mortally insulted the other boy by correcting him.

"Yeah, this is Cori," he said quickly, to cover any potential embarrassment on either of their parts. "He's a Smooth Green Snake. Non-venomous," he promised, because some people got weird about snakes and he hadn't gotten a good read on Alexei yet if he was freaked out or just surprised, "and non-aggressive. I have a permission slip to have him," he added, in case there was concern about whether this was a contraband pet or something since snakes weren't on the short list of approved animal companions. "My family owns and runs a snake ranch, so Cori volunteered to come along so I don't get too homesick. We raised him from an egg. But that was only like a year ago, so he's not quite full grown yet, but he'll still be small even when he is."

'Volunteered,' Hansel realized belatedly, was not a word generally associated with animals, and he felt really bad about it, but he hoped Alexei either didn't notice that the word choice was awkward from his own imperfect command of the language, or else maybe he would attribute it to a weird foible of English (Hansel was very aware that English had plenty of foibles to make things difficult for those struggling to learn it), rather than just assume Hansel actually meant volunteered and had some way to communicate with snakes, like some kind of parselmouth or something wild and crazy like that.

Or maybe it got lost in everything else he'd said. That was a possibility, too.

"Do you have any pets?" he asked in a rush, hoping that this would maybe distract the other first year from his verbal gaffe, if it had been noticed.

Hansel did not have high hopes of keeping this secret under wraps for very long. It was so hard to not say the wrong thing!
1 Hansel Hexenmeister Good, then we are in the right place 1524 0 5

Alexei Vorontsov

March 04, 2021 7:34 PM
Snake. Ssss – sna – aik. Yes, he knew that word – ‘snake’ was what lived in the box Hansel had. ‘Sneak’ was a thing a person did, one of those English words which you had to use two words to make sense of – to sneak; I sneak, you sneak, he sneaks, we sneak, they sneak. It was fairly typical of English, in that it seemed like it was at least consistent, until the one point when it suddenly wasn’t…Alexei formulated the words to thank Hansel for the tip, but before he could utter them, the other boy was onto something else.

Cori. The snake was ‘Cori.’ It had a name, then. Alexei had always thought it was one of the less likely details in some novels, but it seemed there really were people who kept snakes as pets. He nodded agreeably when the obvious (that Cori was both smooth and green) was pointed out to him, supposing Hansel wanted to draw his attention to how very well his snake exemplified these qualities before the list of disclaimers began.

“That is very good,” he concurred about the permission slip, and that Cori was neither venomous nor aggressive. And then Hansel was on again, and on the whole, there was only one bit that Alexei was fairly sure he hadn’t fully understood – that was, what a ranch was. It had the word ‘ran’ as its first part, but he had a feeling this was one of those cases where something didn’t mean what it otherwise did in a language. Context was enough, though, for him to continue nodding along, not giving the use of the word ‘volunteered’ more than a second thought, as he assumed it was a sort of joke – like when someone said that someone who lost a bet had ‘volunteered’ to muck out the stables. If he gave it that second thought, it was to be glad that at least humor was possibly somewhat translatable, as life would be very dull without it....

Well, his would be, anyway. Hansel talked very, very fast, flittering from topic to topic in a way that reminded Alexei a bit of his sister Tatiana. Alexei would have been amazed if Tatiana had ever found life dull for a moment; she had too much to occupy her, and if she didn’t, she immediately found something. The loss of jokes proper would probably barely make her break stride. Alexei, though, thought it might have been difficult, albeit with more room for saying or asking any of the ten things he had thought of before the topic abruptly flittered over to him again.

“No snakes for pets,” he said. “I live on Alaska – there are no snakes in the nature at home. With us are our dogs, and my cat – Prygun. I called him this because he can go very high in the air.” He smiled suddenly. “My sisters did not like this, last year. Tatya thought he would eat Ditya-Fenpu – that is her…puffysken, I think you say – and Anya thought he would…do this to the baby.” He mimed scratching his own face. “But this did not happen,” he assured Hansel. “Have you sisters and brothers?” he asked. "I have five, all with more years than I have."
16 Alexei Vorontsov It would be very bad if we were somewhere else in the desert. 1531 0 5

Hansel Hexenmeister

March 06, 2021 5:58 PM
There were no native snakes in Alaska. There were no native snakes in Alaska. Hansel's mind boggled at the idea that he could go somewhere and there would be nobody for him to talk to there. Even the desert had snakes. How could an Alaskan even know if they were a Parselmouth? He was half tempted to try speaking in Parseltongue, just to see if Alexei could understand because, clearly, he'd never had the opportunity to figure this out for himself.

The First Year Orientation was probably not the best place to do that though, so he didn't. Maybe he and Cori could work out a plan for another time though. Actually, most people here didn't have as ready access to snakes as Karl and Hans did, so any of his fellow students could unwittingly be a parselmouth. Maybe it wasn't as rare as Pa said it was. Maybe people didn't know it was more common because nobody spent enough time around snakes, and that was just a sad state of the world. Later, when they had a chance to talk in private again, he'd suggest to Cori that he should say hi to most of Hansel's new schoolmates and see if anyone else of the two-legged variety could understand him.

But that was for later. For now, Alexei was telling him about . . . some kind of animal (penguin? Hans had been a little distracted and hadn't quite caught what the answer to his question had been, but he thought he'd heard 'penquin') but no . . . not a penguin. Penguins do not eat puffskeins. Something with claws then, judging by the miming of what didn't happen to the baby.

Fortunately, no intelligent comment was expected from him about this semi-violent pet because he was then asked instead about his siblings. Hansel nodded. "Yes, I have two, also both older. Heinrich just graduated - he was an Aladren, and Hilda is one of the Pecari prefects. She's in year six. Did yours come here, too?"
1 Hansel Hexenmeister It's certainly not a good idea to be lost in a desert, but I can get us by for a day or two. 1524 0 5

Alexei Vorontsov

March 06, 2021 6:53 PM
Two siblings. That was a very small family, Alexei thought, but then, they had two boys even in that small number. His parents had not been so fortunate, though Papa said he did not mind that there were four girls in his family; from what Alexei understood, they had mostly given up on the thought of ever having a second boy after Katya was born, as Papa could not afford a fifth or sixth daughter. His own existence had been a matter of lucky chance.

“Two sisters have come here before,” he said when asked about his own family, committing Hilda – Pecari prefect to memory as possibly useful information. He wondered idly if she’d known his sister at all. “Tatiana was here, but is not here any longer. She also was Pecari, like your sister. Katerina is here now, in her final year – she is..Tippenpau?” That was a difficult word, He did not much like it. “She also is a prefect. Two sisters, though, went to school in Russia, and my brother also. Mama is from Russia, but most in our village go to school there, even if their mama is not from Russia – the village was there before the Magly in America bought Alaska, so we did not notice for a long time that we were not supposed to be Russian anymore,” he added with a wry grin, always amused by this quirk of his point of origin. “Everyone speaks Russian at home, Mama does not know English. She knows French and German, though,” he added, just in case it sounded like Mama was stupid.

He looked at Hansel curiously. “Forgive me if I am wrong,” he said, “but the way you speak, it sounds as if you also know German? Is your village all like Deutschland?”
16 Alexei Vorontsov That's good to know, though I hope you don't need to. 1531 0 5

Hansel Hexenmeister

March 28, 2021 10:06 AM
They were a matched pair it seemed, each with two older siblings who had been here before them, the oldest two graduated, the younger two (who were still significantly older than them) being prefects in their respective Houses. "Teppenpaw," Hansel offered, when Alexei stumbled over the House name, though his own accent probably mangled it just as much as Alexei's did.

Alexei did have two additional sisters and a brother beyond his Sonora-going ones, though, also of an age to be graduated, making the other boy's family twice as large as Hansel's. Hansel listened with interest as Alexei explained how his Alaskan town was technically American, but culturally Russian. It was pretty fascinating.

He nodded when Alexei guessed he knew German. "Yes. My family is from Germany originally. I immigrated to Utah when I was four. I do not have a village. We live in the desert, just us." He hesitated a moment, trying to decide how he wanted to refer to his guardian while he was here at school. In his mind 'Pa', 'uncle', 'father', and 'guardian' were all fairly well synonymous and he flitted between them about as randomly as he flitted between English, German, and Parseltongue, but he figured he should probably try for some consistency or people were going to think there were two adult males at his home. And since Hansel had no desire to bring up the can of worms that were his biological parents, he went with: "Pa owns a lot of land there where we raise snakes." He lifted Cori's carrier as an example of the kinds of snakes they raised.
1 Hansel Hexenmeister Right. Let's not go getting lost in the desert then. 1524 0 5

Alexei Vorontsov

March 31, 2021 9:14 PM
Hansel and his family did not have a village? Alexei felt his eyebrows rise slightly in a mix of interest and respect, though the claim was so strange from his point of view that he found it hard to believe. He supposed Utah might be easier to live in than Alaska was, Alaska was a hard land and he had grown up hearing old people tell stories which had been old when those old people were young about how difficult things had been for the first wizards to place a village there, but Hansel’s papa still sounded very strange and either very brave, very insane, or both, living alone with children in the middle of nowhere without a village there to support them….

Perhaps it was because of their occupation? Snakes in books could be dangerous, even used as murder weapons – he had read that this had not been uncommon among wizards in ancient Egypt. That, too, was before he even considered magical snakes, who had intelligence and agency of their own and which communed with dark wizards. Hansel had said his snake was not dangerous, though, so that was no reason for them to live outside the community. How many Coris did they have to have, to need ‘a lot’ of land to bring them up on?

“So – ‘ranch’ – this means a place to raise snakes?” he asked, recalling that word he hadn’t been able to break down earlier in the conversation. “Is it very often, then, for people to own snakes here in the south?” That was not one of the strange things about school that his sisters had ever mentioned to the best of his recollection, but then, when they had first started reporting on how peculiar southerners were, Alexei had not been old enough to understand. Perhaps they had mentioned it back then. “My papa, he also has much land, but we do not live with it,” he added absently.
16 Alexei Vorontsov I think that would be the wiser course. 1531 0 5

Bobby Yu

April 07, 2021 6:10 AM
Despite how odd this interaction was so far, Bobby was relieved to have something to focus on. She hadn't been completely overwhelmed by the orientation, but give it another minute or so and she would be. There were simply too many moving parts, too much to react and too much that went against the laws of the world that Bobby had once relied upon. Rules, after all, existed for a reason. Specifically, to provide a sense of comfort and stability as every other messy aspect of human existence did as it pleased. Back at home, a place that seemed years away, Bobby had been one of those children who thrived on routine. Spontaneity and adventure were no match for the warm hug of knowing precisely what would happen at 4pm each day.

And yet here she was, without a clear sense of what was happening now, let alone what was happening next. The appearance of the new boy, however, allowed Bobby to readjust her focus and zoom in on this single variable to be understood. So far, he seemed alright. His handshake was adequate, which prompted Bobby to add a friendly nod before withdrawing her hand.

"All right then. Yes, magic. I honestly have no idea what to expect. It will certainly be new, hopefully interesting, and ideally predictable. I think I've seen some small bits of magic already so far, but it all seems rather casual. I thought it would be more dramatic, great power used with great intentionality, but people seem to use it more for pretty trivial stuff, like carrying things and turning on the lights."

Bobby was speaking more than she'd expected. At her old school, Bobby had found that being quiet tended to yield better results than speaking too much. Maybe it was the reassurance of the firm handshake, but Bobby was feeling less wound up than she had a few moments ago. Perhaps this was a potential ally. She wasn't quite sure how this school worked, but in any place allies can be useful.
55 Bobby Yu Zoom In 1530 0 5